JAIPUR: The beauty of the Aravalli-flanked Sariska Reserve may soon be a thing of past with Rajasthan government granting 40 new mining leases in the eco-sensitive zone, something that’ll leave the area pock-marked with quarries and pose a threat to an ambitious tiger rehab project.
The government sanctioned the leases on Tuesday on a plea that Aravalli range, where stone mining had been sanctioned, had contours less than 100 feet, which is not considered as a hill as per state government norms.
Earlier this year, Supreme Court banned quarrying for stone in the Aravallis of neighbouring Haryana state, holding the mining companies guilty of violating zoning laws and not filling up excavated craters. Later it said some mining may be allowed but only when Haryana government adopts a mining policy based on an SC-appointed committee’s guidelines.
While Rajasthan authorities have interpreted norms to their convenience to sanction fresh leases, their decision is seen as a setback to efforts to rehabilitate tigers in the Sariska as mining might could damage the ecology of the region and jeopardise survival of big cats. Five tigers have already been relocated to Sariska from Ranthambore and forest officials plan to shift more in the coming months.
Reports suggest the new leases have gone to a few Haryana-based companies at villages like Jaisinghpura, Malana, Goverdhanpura, Palpura and Jamwa Ramgarh, in the vicinity of Sariska sanctuary. On October 12, TOI had carried a report about illegal mining in these areas.
“This shows how powerful and manipulative the mining lobby is. Even if the justification the department of mines and geology and Forests is giving is the hills are less than 100m in height, they should know that there is no such classification by the Supreme Court. This is the department’s own creation and a gross violation of Forest (Conservation) Act 1980,” said Y K Singh Chauhan, conservator of forests, Ministry of Environment and Forests.
However, V S Singh, principal secretary Forests and Environment, who heads the special committee on Aravalli Notification in Alwar, says, “These are all fresh cases in Ramgarh area screened by a committee and don’t have the Aravalli hills portion. Based on the state government 100 meter yardstick and complying with the Supreme Court and MoEF guidelines, these leases will have to follow environmental norms.” He claimed new leases will not disturb forest areas and are not near any water body.